During the summer of my junior year, the pressure was mounting for me to choose a career path and work towards it. Being indecisive by nature, the countless possibilities of the future felt quite overwhelming and I simply didn’t know where to begin. Naturally, of course, my parents were more than willing to provide me with a motivational shove forward, enrolling me in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine (NYLF/MED).
To summarize, for ten days I stayed at the Berkley dorms along with 500 other students. Everyone was sorted into groups of 50, led by a Berkley pre-med student. Each day, we’d either be doing medical-related activities, listening to a medical lecture by a renowned doctor, visiting the medical department of a nearby university, or some combination of the three. Our days would start as early as 7 and end as late as 11, depending on what we were doing that day.
All the groups were named after famous physicians. My group was dubbed Team Hippocrates and was supervised by a young woman named Sadie. Every morning, after breakfast period in the cafeteria, Team Socrates would meet in a small, unused room. On days when we did group activities, we’d stay in that room for most of the day, so I got somewhat attached to it. Some of the more memorable moments were our lively ethical debates, “simulation” medical situations, and unusual, pseudo-medical experiments (I learned how to do stitches…on a banana).
The days we spent going touring other universities were fun as well, although we did spend quite a bit of time traffic. The two universities I enjoyed most were Davis and UCSF, who had the best tours. When we explored Davis, we got to observe their veterinary section; the highlights were watching the horse surgery and seeing the many monkeys used to find cures for diseases.
In contrast to the small town feel of Davis, UCSF had a far more industrial look. Each floor was a new department, with every room having something unique and sometimes a little bizarre. The focal point of this trip had to be the prosthetics department, not only did I learn how far artificial limbs have come, I actually got to see some being created. There’s nothing more amazingly creepy then a room full of random appendages, even if they are artificial.
And while not as memorable as the group activities and the campus tours, there were also the lectures. To be honest, the quality of the lectures definitely varied; after all, not all physicians are skilled at public speaking. However, two lectures that stood out were the Hepatitis B presentation by Dr. So and the streaming knee-surgery video performed live from Columbia University. I suppose my fascination with Dr. So’s presentation was partly racial, after all Hepatitis B affects Asians the most. As for the lecture that occurred while performing surgery, that was simply too gory to forget.
Overall, despite prior reluctance, I’m glad my parents enrolled me in the NYLF program. While I’m still not completely sure if I want to pursue a career in the medical field, the trip certainly made it appealing. Along with learning more about the world, I also developed many new friendships thanks to the experience. I can say with confidence that the experience will stay with me for the rest of my life.
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